Zumwalt Poems Online

Wednesday Poetry Challenge #3

Just to set expectations, these poetry challenges are not intended to inspire you, entertain you, or make you feel better as poet. If that happens, great!  If not, hopefully they will help sharpen your poetry skills over the long run.

So think of this not so much as playing HORSE at the basketball playground, but practicing setting a screen and then rolling towards the basket, over and over, hundreds and hundreds of time until some level of skill is developed.

So for these challenges, you won’t see something like

Write a poem using these ten words:  “easy, simple, softball, ego, who, needs, practice, just, for, fun”


Write a Haiku about your summer vacation.

No, in these challenges the focus will be on developing skills and overall awareness of basic poetry rudiments.

However, progress is made by small steps.  We start with very light weights gradually increasing the resistance until we can benchpress more and more.

Also, there is no place in these challenges for altering the challenge itself.  This is not an exercise where the challenge is to write a poem about a horse and then allow half of the participants to decide that they will “sort of” follow the challenge and write a poem about a large dog or a buffalo or some ant that has lost two legs and now has to deal with only four.

These challenges are very specific — and for a reason.

If you are asked to run eight half-mile laps, don’t shrug off the challenge by doing fourteen jumping jacks.

For the next several challenges, starting with this one, the focus is on information management: practice in modifying information, adding information and removing information.

This challenge has three parts.  Either follow this exactly or chose an easier program than this one — one that allows extra trips to the refrigerator and less time in the gym.  😉

First Part:

Take your poem from Wednesday Poetry Challenge #2 and starting at the very first word, count the number of words.

Now divide the number of words by 3, round down (that is, drop the remainder.) This gives you the number of words that you must change in the poem.  For example, if your poem contains 49 words, than change 16 words in the poem.

Meaning of poem can be kept the same or can change. Punctuation can change.

Second Part:

Take the just changed poem and count the number of words.  Divide by 2, rounding up to the next whole number giving you the number of words in the next version of this poem.  For example, if poem contains 49 words, than create a new version of this poem with only 25 words.

Meaning of poem must remain the same. Punctuation can change.

Third Part:

Take the just new poem created in Part Two and count the number of words.

Now divide the number of words by 3, round down (that is, drop the remainder) and this gives you the number of words that you must change in the poem.  For example, if your poem contains 25 words, than change 8 words in the poem.

Meaning of poem must remain the same. Punctuation can change.


Time has come
for us to leave this island:
a way to do such
must be discovered.

Poem has 17 words.  17/3  = 5 (rounded down to whole number).  Create a new poem changing no more and no less than 5 words:

Fate has commanded
for us to create this nightmare:
a way to  accomplish such
must be discovered.

Note that meaning of poem has changed.

Poem has 17 words, new poem must have only 9 words (17/2 rounded up.)

Fate commands:
create this nightmare.
Fate demands:
Discover how!

Note that meaning of poem doesn’t change.

Poem now has 9 words, replace 3 of these 9 words (9/3)

Fate commands:
invoke dreaded horror.
Fate demands:
Discover how!

Meaning of poem stays the same. 

Another example:

Like the restless heart
Informing us
We must move on —
Leave this island.


Like the relentless heart
Telling us
We should move on —
Destroy this island.

and then becomes

relentless heart dripping

and then becomes

relentless heart screeching:
by tomorrow.

(Notice how one word is dropped and replaced with new word later on.  That is not only acceptable but is encouraged.)

There are two intertwined parts to poetry — information and delivery of that information.  Information is what concepts are to be communicated. Delivery is how that content is communicated: using rhymes, meter or other rhythmic devices, sounds of words, etc.  Indeed, the nature of delivery affects significantly the information delivered and so has an informational aspect to itself, which in poetry may be much more important than the literal message.

For additional details, please refer to Challenge #1Challenge #2  and Wednesday Poetry Challenge Introduction.

There is no time limit here, these challenges are open until site is forcibly closed down.

To link to you post



1.  Click on green “Mister Linky” link above.

2. Enter the URL (address of your response to challenge not of your website’s home page) of your post or page that has your response to this challenge.

3. For this challenge, take your reformatted passage from a novel, short story or essay and modfiy per the instructions above. (Change 1/3 of the words, reduce the number of words by a factor of two and then change 1/3 of the words again. )

4. Anyone that wishes to see anyone’s examples can click on the Mister Linky link above to view any and all of responses.


Comments on: "Wednesday Poetry Challenge #3" (3)

  1. This looks so promising!


  2. […] This is in response to zumpoem’s Wednesday’s Poetry Challenge #3 […]


  3. Jay,

    Looking forward to you giving it a try and posting a link to the result!

    Sunny Sunday Summer Afternoon,

    I think WordPress made a mistake with your comment. Please re-submit.


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